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Bob's Story

Bob Smith I was on my way back from England after attending my Dad’s funeral. I was sitting next to a middle eastern looking bloke. We were right at the back of the plane with a good view of the wing and engine.

We were about half way into the flight, (just over in fact, or this account would not have been written. We’d have been back in England, not in Newfoundland). Anyway, both the middle eastern bloke and I were dozing, and we both short upright at the same moment. The skipper had lowered the undercarriage and started venting fuel. I knew we were to far out to land and there hadn’t, at that point been any announcement.
That’s how our life changing experience started.

And I do mean, life changing. I have a fairly wide set of life experiences, but those 4 or 5 days taught me so much about how people interact, cope with stress, improvise, help each other, and speaking as an agnostic, showed me that there are people who actually practice what they preach. The people of Gambo and particularly the Sally Army congregation and officers have restored my jaded faith in ordinary folk.

Our Escape Committee We were stuck on the plane for about 26 hours when we landed at Gander. The first few hours without air conditioning. In that cramped space and with outside temperatures of 80+ degrees we all became slightly less than ‘fresh’. It would have been difficult ‘not’ to get to know quite intimately our traveling companions. Certainly if we had been able to arrive in O’Hare as planned I would have spent the flight next to the middle eastern looking bloke. Instead, I now know Kifah and fully expect to stay in contact with my new friend (so far we’ve exchanged several emails.)

The children on the flight were as good and well behaved as any I have ever traveled with. Plus, it was on the plane we started to help each other, lending mobile phones, sharing food and drink, generally keeping each others spirits up.

Finally we were allowed of the plane. We were bussed to the hastily organized immigration tables. Oh yes. Seems the bus drivers were on strike when we got there, but they put down their placards and spent 24 hours ferrying all the passengers on all the planes, (38 of ‘em) to where we were destined to spend the next 4 days and nights. Our first example of the basic decency of our Newfoundland cousins

My bed's on the left We were taken on a 35 minute bus ride to a place called Gambo, there we were deposited at the Salvation Army church. It turned out these people had used just about every church, school, (the kids were grateful) and hall in the area to house this sudden influx of unintentional tourists. We were greeted at the door by a jovial lady saying, welcome over and over. I learned over the next few days that she, and the other Sally Army people, really meant, welcome.

I took a look around and the sanctuary was already full to overflowing with my fellow passengers. Someone said there were more rooms downstairs. So of I toddled and took a look round down there. I found the Nursery was empty, and, it had it’s own toilet and washing sink. This was as good as I could hope for, so here I pitched my ………… bag.

They're staying ANOTHER day?! Over the next few days the people of Gambo where absolutely magnificent. They did all and everything for us. Fed us. Clothed us. Entertained us. Took us on trips. Allowed us into their homes. They performed way above and beyond the call of duty.
One day we were taken to David’s house for showers. His mother even prepared us “hot” scones, (Americans call them biscuits) home-made strawberry jam, and - a pot of real tea.

When we arrived many people didn’t have basic toiletries, razors, soap, toothbrushes etc. All these, and then some, appeared as if by magic. Various people arrived at different times to offer, trips to attractions, to do laundry, trips to their homes for showers, meals, a bed for the night, It was pretty well continuous. They never stopped. Hell, they even had a rota for staying all night at the church in case we needed something.

Brenda & Cindy - With the ring of confidence The people I met on the plane and in Gambo were as diverse a bunch as you could hope for. Mainly Americans ands Brits, we also had Chinese, Palestinian, Indian, Mexican, Irish, South African, New Zealand, Brazilian, Dutch, the list goes on. There were a couple of English girls whose parents were on the flight after ours, (no I don’t know why) and the parents had gone back to UK. Karen a Chinese girl who’s in the US for a year studying, had popped over to Europe for 10 days without telling her parents. We kept telling her that her father would just be glad she was safe and not cross with her. Don’t think she believed us.

Then there was Cindy disappearing in a cloud of dust, and Brenda diving into the dust storm created by Cindy. Monty clanging on his mixing bowl. Julian gradually going horse singing for us. The whole of the ‘escape committee’ worked so hard on our behalf. And of course, the ‘Newfies’. If you have to be stranded somewhere, then let it be somewhere as beautiful as Newfoundland, and let the people be as wonderful as the Newfies.

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